Danvers Mail

Dark Secrets in a Chilling Christmas Setting

A Creature Was Stirring

The holiday horror genre grows and evolves yearly; we often have mixed results. A CREATURE WAS STIRRING stands out with a narrative that immediately captures your attention. At the heart of this tale is Nurse Faith, portrayed by Chrissy Metz, who goes to extraordinary lengths to shield her daughter, played by Annalise Basso, from a perplexing illness. This central relationship infuses the film with urgency and emotional complexity, elevating it above a typical fright-fest. There was a lot here to enjoy, but there was also a lot I felt missed the mark. That’s the definition of a film that earns a 2.5-star review for me, something that falls right in the middle of something I didn’t love but also didn’t hate.

The Dangerous Dance of Deception and Duty

All Souls

The War on Drugs is one of the biggest failures in the American political system, and ALL SOULS takes this narrative and throws us into the deep end of it all. Director Emmanuelle Pickett steers this hard-hitting drama in her first feature outing. The screenplay by Anthony Ragnone II tackles some complex subject matter in an approachable way within this fictional crime thriller. At the same time, Mikey Madison and G-Eazy deliver performances that immerse you in a world where moral ambiguities are the norm. Their performances ground their characters in the world they’re inhabiting.

The Dark Heart of the American Dream

Anchorage

Take a look into the raw and unfiltered world of ANCHORAGE, a film that throws the spotlight on America's opioid crisis with unflinching honesty. The movie marks the directorial debut of Scott Monahan and writer Dakota Loesch, who also take on the roles of the lead actors. They weave a narrative that takes us on a journey from the desolate landscapes of Florida to the hopeful yet distant shores of Alaska. The central plot revolves around two brothers who smuggle a load of drugs in a rather unusual way, all in a high-stakes attempt to capitalize on Alaska's black market.

The Human Cost of High-Tech Surveillance

Total Trust

In TOTAL TRUST, director Jialing Zhang takes us through the intricacies of China's surveillance state, artfully balancing the tightrope walk between personal freedom and societal safety. This documentary transcends the typical genre confines, offering a narrative that grips your attention and sparks a deeper reflection on the themes it presents. The film marries stark reality with compelling storytelling, leaving a lasting impression that resonates with you, making you think about the balance of what safety means.

Unveiling the Mysteries of a Gothic Farmhouse Drama

Peacock (Pou)

Taking its queues from gothic horror, Jaco Minnaar's directorial debut, PEACOCK, offers a potent blend of the unsettling mixed with the beautiful. Set against the South African countryside backdrop, the film centers around the character of Anna Pohl, portrayed by Tarryn Wyngaard. Her journey, marked by defiance against a conservative upbringing and her role as a caregiver, lends the film an air of profound, introspective mystery. PEACOCK emerges as a riveting exploration of the horror genre, inviting viewers into a world where fear intertwines with beauty. From the first frame, you’ll notice something different about this experience. I don’t think I could figure out what it was, but there’s just something unique about it.

A Gritty Tale of Revenge and Justice

Kill Butterfly Kill (Underground Wife, Hei shi fu ren)

In the early 1980s, Taiwanese cinema gave us KILL BUTTERFLY KILL, a film that stands out as a visual powerhouse. This film defies genre norms to deliver a striking tale of vengeance and societal reflection. Set against a backdrop of political and social upheaval, this film, a jewel in the 'Black Movie' genre of “social-realist crime films,” offers an unfiltered look into the complexities of Taiwanese society. Juliet Chan's intense portrayal of a woman on a quest for retribution, supported by "Tattooer Ma" Sha's “empathetic” hitman, creates a riveting, emotionally charged, and thought-provoking dynamic.

Uncovering the Veil of Nuclear Secrets

Radioactive: The Women of Three Mile Island

With RADIOACTIVE: THE WOMEN OF THREE MILE ISLAND, Heidi Hutner, a Stony Brook University professor, takes us on a narrative journey into the past, present, and future, exploring the tales of secrets that have been silenced for far too long. This stirring saga of resilience and bravery emerges after the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster. Hutner doesn't just present facts; she shows personal stories, scientific inquiry, and a flair for cinematic storytelling.

An Unconventional Journey Through the Wild West

Young Guns

If you follow my socials or read enough of my reviews, you’ll know that Western and Martial Arts films are probably two of my least favorite genres. As the 1980s ended, a film emerged that infused the Western genre with a much-needed vitality. YOUNG GUNS, under the direction of Christopher Cain and written by John Fusco, took a bold stride in reinterpreting the infamous story of Billy The Kid and his gang. This film skillfully blends historical elements with a “modern” cinematic approach, creating a distinct and engaging experience that breathes new life into the classic Western narrative. The Western genre has continued to evolve partly due to this film, resulting in a wave of neo-Western cinema that I think are some of the best films of the year when released.

Dreams and Demons in a Dark Dance

Bring Her to Me

Examine the murky waters of the supernatural; BRING HER TO ME emerges as a unique title in Full Moon’s horror genre. Director Brooks Davis weaves an erotically charged narrative with a chilling, bizarre twist. The story tracks the journey of Mara, portrayed by Bec Doyle, as she's entangled in a web of demonic nightmares. Supporting characters Raziel (Kalond Irlanda) and Abigail (Roslyn Gentle) add depth to this murky tale, blurring the lines between dreams and reality, culminating in a climax that is as unexpected as gratifying.

A Journey Through Loyalty and Betrayal

Brothers in Arms

Amid the heart of Los Angeles, BROTHERS IN ARMS examines a captivating narrative of two brothers, each taking a different path in the wake of a life-altering childhood event. The film, under Jordan Charles’ direction, captures the essence of their emotional journey, leading to an intense and inevitable reunion. As one brother upholds the law and the other delves into criminal activities, their story is a testament to the profound effects of life’s choices.

Deck the Halls With Dunder Mifflin

The Office: Complete Christmas Collection

Let’s tour Dunder Mifflin through THE OFFICE: COMPLETE CHRISTMAS COLLECTION. I was immediately immersed in a holiday-themed comic spectacle. I’ve seen all of these episodes (multiple times), and it still felt magical and made me want to start rewatching the series again immediately. This seven-episode compilation seamlessly blends the absurdities of office life with the festive season’s cheer. From the chaotic gift exchanges in "Christmas Party" to the peculiar celebration in "Dwight Christmas," the collection serves as a humorous yet touching portrayal of the everyday life in this dysfunctional office.

Slasher Fest Meets Yuletide Lore

Santa Isn't Real

Zac Locke’s SANTA ISN’T REAL is a holiday horror that flips the script on festive cheer, transforming the beloved Santa Claus into a figure of terror. From its opening scene to the climactic finale, it explores a Christmas nightmare a Santa gone wild brought to life. It’s a concoction of suspense and horror that veers sharply from the usual holiday film fare. This festive film follows Locke’s first feature film, FLOAT, which I enjoyed.

Choreographed Chaos When the Streets Come Alive

The Warriors [Limited Edition 4K UHD]

Walter Hill takes us on an urban adventure in THE WARRIORS, a film that plunges into the chaotic underground world of New York City. Here, the usual norms are flipped on their head, with gang factions reigning supreme. This high-octane narrative puts "The Warriors" in the spotlight, a group wrongfully accused and forced to navigate a dangerous cityscape. Hill delivers a story that constantly keeps viewers on their toes, blending dark undertones with surprising elements of humor and heart.

Horror Anthology Breaks Conventional Boundaries

HeBGB TV

This may be my favorite new yearly Halloween watch! (yes I realize it’s December, but going forward!) Tuning into the HEBGB TV experience is like opening a treasure chest from the 80s/90s, filled with horror, whimsy, and nostalgia. Released in 2022, this film takes viewers on a journey far from the typical path of most horror anthologies. Directors Eric Griffin, Adam Lenhart, and Jake Mcclellan craft a delight that transforms an ordinary evening into an extraordinary one for two siblings. The opening news segment sets the tone, immersing viewers in a world reminiscent of vintage television but with a demonic twist.

Beyond Politics With Real Lives and Real Challenges

We Live Here: The Midwest

Welcome to the Midwest (in my case, specifically Illinois); in WE LIVE HERE: THE MIDWEST, viewers embark on a journey that blends the preconceived ideas of what this part of the country looks like and explores the lives of LGBTQIA+ families in America's heartland. Director Melinda Maerker gathered a collection of stories that are as enlightening as they are heartwarming, marking a significant achievement in documentary filmmaking. This isn't just a tale of overcoming adversity; it's an ode to the enduring power of resilience and love.

A Holiday Delight, Unwrapped With Laughs and Love

Christmas with Jerks

When the holiday season rolls around, there's nothing like settling in with a new holiday-themed film. You know the drill—cozy, heartwarming, and often a tad predictable. But now and then, a holiday movie adds a dash of spice to the traditional recipe. Enter CHRISTMAS WITH JERKS, a holiday rom-com that's a little more than meets the eye. Writer/Director and lead Leanna Adams makes this her project; get ready for a cinematic sleigh ride filled with humor, unexpected twists, and just the correct dose of holiday fun.

Raw Portrayal of Friendship and Loss

Always, Lola

In indie cinema, ALWAYS, LOLA emerges as a gem, not just for its poignant narrative but for the way it deftly navigates the intricate interplay of friendship and grief. Directed by Jeffrey Crane Graham, this film draws us into its world with a blend of raw emotion and remarkable performances, all achieved within the confines of a modest budget. I was immediately immersed in a story that felt both intensely personal and universally resonant. I can’t quite describe the emotions this film made me feel, but you know I’ll do my best!

Eddie Murphy Stars in Festive Family Fiasco!

Candy Cane Lane

In CANDY CANE LANE, Eddie Murphy plays Chris Carver, a suburban father whose main holiday focus is to reign supreme in the local Christmas decoration contest. However, his journey veers into the world of the extraordinary when a deal with Pepper (Jillian Bell), a crafty elf, unleashes a series of magical “events” straight out of the "12 Days of Christmas." This enchantment not only upends this quiet town but also thrusts Chris, his wife Carol (Tracee Ellis Ross), and their children into a spirited quest to undo the magic and restore their cherished holiday traditions.

An Indie Take on Ghostly Encounters

The Waiting

Writer/Director F.C. Rabbath concocts a unique blend of comedy, drama, and supernatural elements in THE WAITING, stepping away from the usual ghost story conventions. The film chronicles Eric (Nick Leali,) a heartbroken man whose life takes an unexpected turn when he begins working at The Lodge and becomes fascinated with the enigmatic room 101. This narrative intertwines various genres, keeping viewers engrossed and guessing at every turn. To be entirely fair, we’ve seen this story before, but Rabbath takes the story and adds a unique zest to it that I wasn’t expecting.

A Haunting Tale of Survival and Hope

Raging Grace

When you enter the world of RAGING GRACE, you embark on a journey that is as much about horror as the human spirit. Writer/Director Paris Zarcilla crafts a narrative that is more than just a simple scare; it explores survival through the lens of an immigrant experience in the UK. The story, exploring the turbulent lives of Joy (Max Eigenmann) and her daughter Grace (Jaeden Paige Boadilla,) is an emotional rollercoaster that grips your heart and doesn't let go.

The Romance and Politics of Old Hollywood

The Last Tycoon

Step back in time with THE LAST TYCOON, Elia Kazan's loving tribute to Hollywood's golden era. Anchored by Robert De Niro's dynamic portrayal of Monroe Stahr, a studio chief inspired by the legendary Irving Thalberg of MGM, this film is a cinematic excursion through the highs and lows of movie-making. Drama, romance, and political intrigue intertwine, offering a rare peek behind Hollywood's glitzy façade.

Erotic Drama Meets Art-House in Bold Mix

White River (Yan Jiao)

WHITE RIVER feels like entering a realm where the essence of erotic drama merges with the intricacies of art-house filmmaking. Set against the global pandemic, the film transports us to Yanjiao, a locale mere moments away from Beijing. The story zooms in on Yang Fan, played by Yuan Tian, who portrays a compelling mix of stoicism and charisma. What begins as a narrative steeped in everyday life swiftly transforms into a saga rich in emotional and sexual complexities.

Emotional Depths Explored in Sibling Saga

How I Learned to Fly

Authenticity and emotional grounding are what create the world of HOW I LEARNED TO FLY. In your introduction to the film, you're in for a narrative that's as much about the heart as it is about the art of cinema. It's a film that looks deep into the soul, exploring the lives of Daniel (Marcus Scribner) and Eli Davis (Lonnie Chavis) with performances that make every scene resonate with emotion. Director Simon Steuri brings a personal touch that adds depth, making this film a viewing experience and a journey.

Visual Storytelling at Its Most Compelling

Sisters (Māsas)

Linda Olte's SISTERS is a heart-wrenching exploration of resilience and belonging against Latvia's war-torn backdrop. This compelling drama pulls us into the lives of Anastasija (Emma Skirmante) and Diana (Gerda Aljena,) two sisters on the brink of life-altering moments. Olte weaves a narrative that's both deeply personal and resonant with universal themes, making SISTERS a film that doesn't just tug at your heartstrings but also stirs your soul. This is one of those films that even if you didn’t read the subtitles or understand Latvian, you could still understand and appreciate the story you’re seeing; it’s a visual journey as much as anything.

A Tale of Love and Betrayal in Aristocracy

Valmont

VALMONT, directed by Miloš Forman, is like opening a book of lavish illustrations, each page revealing a deeper layer of narrative complexity and character depth. This film isn't just a journey through the corridors of power in 18th-century France; it's a sophisticated exploration of the human psyche, draped in the finery of a period drama but pulsing with contemporary resonance. The film is meant to make you uncomfortable and does so in stunning fashion.

A New Kind of Superhero Emerges

Emmageddon (All Earthly Constraints)

Let’s explore the alternate reality world of EMMAGEDDON, directed by Ryan Moore; the film is like embarking on a journey that reshapes the superhero genre. At the core of this cinematic odyssey is Emily, embodied by Bre Mueck, who navigates the day-to-day routine of her coffee shop job while pursuing her screenwriting passion. The story unfolds with Emily crafting a character, Emma, whose life closely mirrors her own, yet with a twist – her secret life as the superhero Emmageddon. This multi-dimensional narrative is as thought-provoking as it is entertaining, blending real-life dilemmas with fantastical elements.

Exploring Childhood Wonders in a Winter Tale

Teddy’s Christmas (Teddybjørnens jul)

Andrea Eckerbom's TEDDY'S CHRISTMAS, a journey into a snow-kissed, quaint town, unfolds like a classic Christmas card come to life. It's a visual and emotional exploration that blends the simplicity of a bygone era's Christmas with the deep-seated essence of family connections. The film, steeped in a festive atmosphere, brings the old-world charm of traditional markets, classic fashion, and heartfelt gifting to the fore.

Dark, Dramatic, and Undeniably Ambitious

Everyone Will Burn (Y todos arderán)

David Hebrero’s EVERYONE WILL BURN takes us on a trip to the small village of Leon, Spain, where the grief of a mother, María José, played by Macarena Gómez, intertwines with the mysterious and supernatural. This setting is further enriched by the arrival of Lucia, portrayed by Sofía García. The movie is rich in mystery and intrigue and promises a captivating exploration of loss and the unknown. The film's visuals make for one of its most vital elements, sometimes carrying the movie as the audience becomes immersed in the world on screen.

Holiday Terror Meets Small-Town Secrets

It's a Wonderful Knife

Tyler MacIntyre's IT’S A WONDERFUL KNIFE blends the cozy, twinkling lights of the holiday season with the on-the-edge-of-your-seat suspense of a horror. The film revolves around Winnie Carruthers, a character whose depth and complexity are masterfully portrayed by Jane Widdop. Winnie's life takes a turn after a Christmas Eve incident with a murderer, plunging her into a whirlwind year that ends with a desperate wish. This wish sends her spiraling into an alternate reality, upending not just her life but the lives of those around her.

A Wilderness Journey Into Fear

Loop Track

In LOOP TRACK, Tom Sainsbury takes us on a suspense-filled journey into New Zealand's majestic Waitākere Ranges. This isn't your average walk in the woods – it's a gripping tale in which we get to join Ian, played by Sainsbury, whose search for tranquility turns into a fight for survival. The film intertwines psychological thriller elements with the adrenaline-pumping suspense of a slasher, making each scene a thrilling escalation in a story as unpredictable as it is engaging. I found the entire experience very genuine; the time taken to build up the world these characters inhibit was well worth the payoff!

Epic Showdown With Dracula and Crew

The Monster Squad 4K

Welcome to the realm of horror through a childhood lens; my initial viewing of this film was as a rental of a local video store shelf on VHS. This early exposure piqued my love for this film, which would stay with me for decades. THE MONSTER SQUAD is a film that mixes the innocence of youth with the charisma of horror classics, creating a memorable imprint on my movie-watching experience. Maybe it's partial nostalgia, but this is the best I’ve ever seen this film; this transfer is beautiful; it feels like you’re watching an actual film for its entire run.

John Woo Revamps Action With Silent Intensity

Silent Night

Prepare yourself when you get thrown into the world of SILENT NIGHT; it is a genuinely emotional ride. I was ready for an adrenaline-pumping experience, and the film didn’t disappoint. John Woo has crafted a narrative that's action-packed and uniquely examines a heartbreaking story. Joel Kinnaman, known for his intense roles, slips into the character of a devastated father with a vengeance at his core, delivering a performance that’s as physically commanding as it is emotionally charged.

Ambition and Drama in Old Hollywood

The Carpetbaggers

THE CARPETBAGGERS, an adaptation of Harold Robbins' novel, transports us to another period of thrills and decadence. At the forefront is the ambitious Jonas Cord Jr., a character George Peppard embodies with depth. Cord Jr. inherits a business empire and a complex past following his father's demise. The film is more than a historical narrative; it’s an emotional saga of power, ambition, and the personal costs of success.

Punk Rock Meets Evangelism in Cinematic Blend

Salvation! (Salvation!: Have You Said Your Prayers Today?)

SALVATION! is a vibrant journey back to the pulsating heart of the 1980s, a decade known for its exuberance and excesses. Under Beth B’s bold direction, the film emerges as a vivid satire that cleverly critiques the era while celebrating its unique style. With a backdrop of eclectic music and cultural motifs, it's like a dance through time with a critical eye. Satire connects with me at such a core level, especially when it's done with such a straight face like this. I don’t think I had ever seen a film by Beth B before this year, and I’ve now seen quite a few thanks to various restoration projects. These films, while almost all unique, all have such powerful messages.

A Futuristic Odyssey of Liberation and Strength

Barbarella [Limited Edition]

BARBARELLA is more than just a flashback to the past; it's a voyage through a visionary realm directed by Roger Vadim. This gem from 1968, featuring the inimitable Jane Fonda as the eponymous heroine, is an exhilarating exploration of self-discovery set against the backdrop of a future where Earth symbolizes peace. The journey that unfolds is a vibrant tapestry of the 1960s' counterculture and sexual liberation, presented in a way that's both visually stunning and narratively engaging.

A Tale of Personal and Political Turmoil

Le Combat Dans L'ile

It's rare to encounter a piece of cinema that genuinely reshapes an actor's career trajectory. LE COMBAT DANS L'ILE does just that for Romy Schneider, marking a definitive turn from her German roots to the French cinematic landscape. Alain Cavalier's 1961 film is a carefully crafted narrative that weaves together the intricate threads of personal and political drama, striking a harmonious balance between the two.

Linnea Quigley Shines in Nostalgic Horror Flick

Scream Queen

As we explore the eerie depths of the horror genre, SCREAM QUEEN offers up a surprise starring role of the icon herself, Linnea Quigley, a beacon in the horror genre. Resurrected by Visual Vengeance, this film offers both long-time enthusiasts and new viewers a chance to experience Quigley's dramatic prowess. A well-known name in the world of horror, Quigley takes on the role of Malicia Tombs as we follow her story through a maze of on-set conflicts and sinister twists; SCREAM QUEEN is as much an ode to horror nostalgia as it is a showcase of thrills. The meta aspect of the film shines bright as this sub-genre horror film style has become even more popular in the present day.

Independent Cinema Breaks Conventional Boundaries

The Wrong Door

In THE WRONG DOOR, Ted Farrell, a sound design student, finds his ordinary life upended by a series of eerie and unexpected events. Donning a jester costume for a part-time job, Ted inadvertently becomes entangled in a sinister murder mystery. This fusion of everyday life with a dark, twisting plot sets the stage for a film as captivating as it is unpredictable. This is what indie horror filmmaking is all about; this film planted so many seeds that inspired some modern-day horror films. Sure, it’s rough around the edges, but it's fun, original, and entertaining. It's another hit for Visual Vengeance!

A Sequel That Stands on Its Own

Tremors 2: Aftershocks (Limited Edition)

In TREMORS II: AFTERSHOCKS, the essence of the original is still there, albeit with a twist in theme and execution. Directed by S.S. Wilson and supported by the original creative duo, Ron Underwood and Brent Maddock, the sequel brings us back to the dangerous realm of Graboids, but with an evolutionary curveball. This challenges returning characters and introduces us to new faces in this monster-laden adventure.

A Visual Feast in a Tale of Obsession

Sheryl

SHERYL emerges as a bold narrative that blends the harsh realities of modern society with the allure of a dark fantasy. This film, written and directed by Justin Best, steps away from conventional horror-thriller tropes, presenting a thought-provoking and visually striking journey. It explores the life of Sheryl (Anthea Neri Best,) a character caught in the relentless pursuit of physical perfection, leading her down an increasingly bloody path. This exploration of beauty standards and self-identity marks a significant departure from traditional horror narratives, delving into the realm of dark comedy with a purpose. It's a cinematic journey that challenges the viewer to question the lengths one might go in the quest for perfection.

A Symphony of Talent and Ambition

Pianoforte

In PIANOFORTE, director Jakub Piątek shifts gears from his previous works of fiction to the gripping reality of the International Chopin Piano Competition. Set against the historical backdrop of Warsaw, the film transcends a mere technical showcase of skill, delving deep into the emotional and psychological experiences of the participating pianists. It's an insightful journey into their quest for excellence, filled with personal highs and lows, showcasing their musical prowess and human vulnerabilities. As a sports fan, this was right up there with any sporting competition I could imagine; the anticipation and anxiety were incredible.

Aliens and Action in Rural America

Alien Outlaw (Kino Cult #2)

ALIEN OUTLAW (see THE DARK POWER KINO CULT #3 for his first film) is a daring venture into uncharted cinematic territory. Director Phil Smoot crafts an indie film that deftly blends crew members into on-screen roles, creating a unique fusion of behind-the-scenes and on-camera talent. Front and center is Jesse Jamison (Kari Anderson,) whose seamless transition from the world of dance to the rugged terrain of acting is a feat in itself. The film further enriches its narrative by including Western film legends Lash La Rue and Sunset Carson, melding traditional Western charm with a new, unexplored dimension.

Zombie Shamans and Whip-Wielding Heroes

The Dark Power (Kino Cult #3)

In his directorial debut, Phil Smoot introduces us to THE DARK POWER (see ALIEN OUTLAW KINO CULT #2 for his follow-up film,) a unique fusion of horror and absurdity with a distinct twist. The film, set against some unsettling backdrop, combines the story of college students, a cryptic Toltec curse, and a series of spine-tingling events. Smoot's blend of supernatural occurrences and insightful social commentary offers an intriguing, albeit somewhat uneven, viewing experience.

The Unsung Hero of the World's Greatest Band

The Stones and Brian Jones

So, full transparency, I’ve been a Rolling Stones fan for most of my life; this fandom was handed down to me by my dad, who I’ve gone with four times to see the Stones perform live in concert. When I tell you that this documentary offers something for everyone, I mean it. I watched it with my dad, and we both learned things. We both consider ourselves pretty big fans. While we both knew of Brian Jones and his legacy with The Stones, there was so much more that we only had surface-level knowledge of. With THE STONES AND BRIAN JONES, Nick Broomfield does more than chronicle a musical era; he breathes life into it. This film is an intricate exploration of the 60s music scene, anchored by the story of Brian Jones, who was pivotal in elevating the Rolling Stones to legendary status. It's not just a retrospective; it's a journey into the very heartbeat of rock history.

A Meta Take on Cliches of Cliches?

Bad CGI Gator

So, how do you rate or criticize a film that is so self-aware of itself that it’s named BAD CGI GATOR? That was my challenge today, and then some. When starting this film, we are immediately struck by the film's unique blend of humor and the raw, unrefined charm of B-movies. Full Moon Features takes us on a journey to the swamps of Georgia during Spring Break, where a group of college graduates unwittingly give life to a menacing CGI alligator in their pursuit of internet fame. This film stands out for celebrating its imperfections, transforming them into a treasure trove of entertainment.

A Riveting Tale of Freedom and Defiance

Cool Hand Luke

The first time I watched COOL HAND LUKE, it was on VHS on a 25-inch tube TV yesterday; I got to revisit it on a 55-inch 4k TV, and wow! I remember watching it for the first time all those years ago, and I anticipated a typical prison drama but was swept into a more profound narrative. Paul Newman, as Luke, didn't just act; he transformed, embodying a spirit of defiance that's rare on screen. With his visionary direction, Stuart Rosenberg blurred the lines between a mere escape story and a profound exploration of human resilience. The film wasn't just a watch; it was an experience resonating with a harmony of themes that entertained and deeply moved me. Yesterday’s experience was like watching it again for the first time.

Noir Meets History in Unique Fusion

The Maltese Falcon

In THE MALTESE FALCON, you're instantly caught in the web of Humphrey Bogart's enthralling portrayal of Samuel Spade. This film is a masterclass in film noir, skillfully directed by John Huston in his first major outing. Dashiell Hammett's literary masterpiece is brought to life, painting a world where moral ambiguities abound and a tale of greed, ethical dilemmas, and convoluted romance unfurls around a mysterious falcon statuette.

Turbulent Teens and Timeless Themes

Rebel Without a Cause

REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE explores the soul of 1950s youth, masterfully crafted by director Nicholas Ray. It's a movie that navigates the turbulent waters of adolescence, revealing the raw emotions and conflicts that define a generation in flux. With James Dean's standout performance as Jim Stark (in what I would consider Dean’s second-best performance; see EAST OF EDEN,) the film becomes an anthem of teenage defiance, challenging the norms of its era and redefining the narrative of youthful rebellion for audiences.

Sneaker Wars: a Corporate Drama

Air

AIR takes us through one of the most crucial times in the sports industry; arguably, this defined sports for generations to come, highlighting when Nike struggled to maintain its presence in the basketball shoe sector (I promise it’s more exciting than it sounds.) This film has a narrative rich with corporate strategies, risky gambles, and relentless ambition. Ben Affleck's, combined with Matt Damon's powerful portrayal of Nike's marketing maverick Sonny Vaccaro, turns AIR into an electrifying exploration of the highs and lows in the sports business world.

A Riveting Journey Through Guilt and Innocence

The Fugitive

Welcome to a journey where a fight for innocence meets the gritty streets of Chicago. In this tale, renowned surgeon Dr. Richard Kimble, portrayed by Harrison Ford, is plunged into a vortex of chaos. His world, once a bastion of peace, is violently upended in the wake of an unforeseen horror. Thus begins an extraordinary saga, weaving an intricate narrative far beyond typical stories. Kimble’s residence suddenly becomes a surreal battleground, trapping him in a web of false accusations. We are swiftly ushered into a high-octane narrative of fraud and evasion, where he becomes the unwitting protagonist.

Retirement Mystery of NFL Legend

Bye Bye Barry

As a lifelong Chicago Bears fan, one of the biggest names I knew in the NFL who didn’t wear a Bears jersey was Barry Sanders; just as with so many other great NFL players, I knew of his accomplishments and his place in the pantheon of NFL Allstars. As a Bears fan, I followed the path of another running back a little closer, but this gave me a history lesson I never knew I needed. BYE BYE BARRY is like stepping onto the field with the NFL icon Barry Sanders. This Prime Video documentary is more than a sports story; it's a cinematic exploration of an athlete whose life story is as compelling as his football career. Captivating and rich with detail, it's a narrative that grips you from start to finish.

A Tangled Tale of Toys and Reality

Babes in Toyland

Venturing into the world of BABES IN TOYLAND, we embark on a journey through the 1986 adaptation of Victor Herbert's 1903 operetta. Directed by Clive Donner, the film spotlights a young Drew Barrymore navigating her way from childhood stardom to a role of increased complexity. Alongside her, Pat Morita and Keanu Reeves add their unique touches to this nostalgic venture. I have always held the 1961 classic close to my heart, so this version had an uphill battle from day one.

Action and Morality Intertwine in Southern Tale

White Lightning

Head into the heart of Arkansas with WHITE LIGHTNING, a story that mixes moonshine, vendettas, and moral intricacies into a compelling narrative. In his portrayal of Bobby "Gator" McKlusky, Burt Reynolds pulls us into a personal crusade ignited by tragedy. Gator's path to unraveling his brother Donny's mysterious demise, linked to the villainous Sheriff JC Connors—a role Ned Beatty infuses with a disturbingly sinister aura—leads us through a series of ethical twists and action-packed turns—the heart-pumping prequel to the film GATOR.

Action and Romance Blend in Swampy Saga

Gator

GATOR marks a notable return for Burt Reynolds, who leads the cast and directs behind the camera. Set in a Southern landscape that's both rugged and picturesque, the film blends high-octane action with a story of complicated romance and deep drama. Reynolds brings his characteristic charm to Gator McKlusky, a character entrenched in the dangerous world of moonshine trafficking.

Navigating Moral Ambiguity in 1980s New York

Inside Man

Exploring the dimly lit world of 1980s Brooklyn, Danny A. Abeckaser's INSIDE MAN unfolds as a tale of moral ambiguity and the high-stakes underworld of the Gambino family. In the role of Bobby Belucci, Emile Hirsch offers us a gripping portrayal of a disgraced cop's journey into the depths of undercover work.

Challenging the Status Quo With Barbie

Barbie

Stepping into Barbie Land, thanks to director Greta Gerwig, is like opening a vibrant book of colorful surprises with deeper meaning around every corner. This film, starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, transcends its plastic origins, weaving a narrative that boldly challenges societal norms and gender roles. From the start, it’s clear that this is no ordinary toy story but a sophisticated, satirical exploration of our modern world. However, I wish it could have gone deeper, even more meta.

Jet Li's Evolution in the Action Genre

Heroes & Villains: Three films starring Jet Li (Eureka Classics) Special Edition Blu-ray

Jet Li's foray into a trio of action-packed adventures showcases his remarkable range, from traditional martial arts epics to edge-of-your-seat contemporary thrillers. These films - THE ENFORCER, DR WAI IN THE SCRIPTURE WITH NO WORDS, and HITMAN - weave together drama, action, and humor, offering a multi-dimensional cinematic experience.

Confronting Age With Courage and Controversy

Plan 75

Chie Hayakawa's PLAN 75 takes us on a cinematic journey into a dystopian future in Japan, where demographic shifts have reached a tipping point. This film is not just a story but a societal mirror, presenting the controversial Plan 75. As we follow the life of Michi Kakutani, a spirited 78-year-old, the narrative immerses us in a world that challenges our views on aging and the respect it deserves.

Rediscovering Heritage Through Film

The Unknown Country

THE UNKNOWN COUNTRY is a film redefining the boundaries of traditional storytelling. Under Morrisa Maltz's direction, this journey is not your typical dramatic fare. It's an odyssey into the depths of the protagonist Tana's soul, portrayed with heart and depth by Lily Gladstone. The film weaves a fictional tale with real-life fragments, delivering an authentic snapshot of America's diverse look and feel.

A Mother's Heartache Takes Center Stage

Four Daughters (Les filles d'Olfa)

In my introduction to FOUR DAUGHTERS, I was immediately swept up in a narrative that masterfully balanced documentary and drama. Under Kaouther Ben Hania's innovative direction, this film is more than a mere movie; it's an odyssey through Tunisia's emotional and social landscapes. The story pivots around Olfa, a mother tangled in the heart-wrenching disappearance of her two eldest daughters. This poignant narrative opens doors to the intimate and often unseen aspects of her family's life, revealing a complex and richly woven reality.

A Double Dose of Lakeside Terror

Cruel Summer & Sequel: Cruel Summer Part 2

In indie horror, CRUEL SUMMER and SEQUEL: CRUEL SUMMER PART 2 stand out with their innovative blend of classic and contemporary elements. These films, directed by Scott Tepperman, reinvigorate the slasher genre with their unique approach, setting a new bar for horror enthusiasts. Remember, these are indie horror in every possible way, but they are done with passion, love, and just the right amount of cheesiness. With some fantastic practical effects (and a few unfortunate CGI shots), these films pay homage to the classics that walked so they could run.

Action and Adventure in the Silent Era

A Douglas Fairbanks Double Feature: Robin Hood and The Black Pirate

Step into early Hollywood's grandeur with Kino Lorber's double feature starring Douglas Fairbanks in ROBIN HOOD and THE BLACK PIRATE. These films are a testament to Fairbanks' extraordinary versatility and agility, carving a niche in the annals of silent cinema. Fairbanks’s talent knew almost no bounds; along with acting, he was also a writer, producer, and more on many films during his career.

Heartfelt Tale of Struggle and Acceptance

East of Eden

EAST OF EDEN whisks us away to the landscapes of early 20th-century Northern California, diving straight into the heart of a family drama as engaging as the scenery. Center stage is Adam Trask, played by Raymond Massey, who embodies the stern father figure with a gravitas that anchors the film. His sons, Aron (Richard Davalos) and Cal (James Dean) are entangled in a relentless quest for their father's affection, setting the tone for a gripping tale from the get-go. This is one of those films I’ve had on my watch list for decades, and it always upsets me so much when I finally watch a film like this and am blown away, wishing I had watched it years ago. Although, had I watched this back when I was watching all of the ‘1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die’ I would have probably seen a terrible VHS transfer instead of this gorgeous 4K restoration!

A Story of Love, Power, and a Table

The Coffee Table (La mesita del comedor)

THE COFFEE TABLE is an experience with a name that may cause one to expect a simple story about furniture. Yet, under Caye Casas' direction, this film transforms into a compelling exploration, painting a picture of a marriage teetering on the edge. David Pareja and Estefanía de los Santos bring to life the complex characters of Jesús and María, entangling viewers in a web of power dynamics and critical choices, making every scene a study in emotional depth and narrative intrigue.

Emotional Depth Marks Autism-Focused Drama

When Time Got Louder

Walking into WHEN TIME GOT LOUDER, I was immediately captivated by its honest and unadorned portrayal of a family navigating the challenges of autism. Director Connie Cocchia eschews the typical melodrama, opting for a grounded and authentic depiction of life’s complexities. This film doesn't just tug at your heartstrings; it plays a symphony on them.

Nostalgic Notes in South Chicago

Stony Island

The soulful streets of 1970s Chicago, in STONY ISLAND, rhythmically unfold under Andrew Davis's direction. This journey, set to the beat of an emerging R&B band, captures the essence of an era with a heartfelt and genuine approach. While navigating through occasional narrative detours, the film remains a charming blend of drama, music, and an evocative portrayal of time and place.

A Mother's Story, a Daughter's Vision

Wisdom Gone Wild

WISDOM GONE WILD is a heartfelt journey through the complexities of aging, memory, and identity. Directed by Rea Tajiri, this film unfolds the multi-layered story of Rose Tajiri Noda's sixteen-year battle with dementia. It brilliantly blends art, music, and evocative storytelling, immersing the audience in a world where the past and present merge in a heartfelt exploration of life.

A Tale of Dreams, Music, and Family

Thin Skin

From the opening frame of THIN SKIN, we enter a narrative realm where a jazz musician's dreams mix with life's stark realities like oil and water. Aham (Ahamefule Joe Oluo), the film's heart, lives the life we see on screen. His journey, set in Seattle's bustling, rain-soaked streets, is not just about music but balancing personal aspirations with the demanding tempo of everyday existence. This slice of life echoes the familiar struggles and triumphs that so many face.

A Musical Journey Five Decades Strong

Engelbert Humperdinck: The Legend Continues

ENGELBERT HUMPERDINCK: THE LEGEND CONTINUES is a cinematic exploration that dives deep into the heart and soul of a musical titan. Directed with soul and sensitivity by Steven Murray, the film is a symphony of intimate anecdotes, dazzling concert footage, and insightful commentary. It's more than a visual treat; it's a journey through the life of Engelbert Humperdinck, a man whose timeless music has captivated hearts worldwide. With unparalleled access to Humperdinck, the film is a deeper dive than we would have seen otherwise.

Engaging, Profound Dialogues Define the Film

Full Body Massage

Nicolas Roeg’s FULL BODY MASSAGE is the definitive peak in 90s television dramas. The film takes the viewer on a journey of personal discovery and deep human connection. Set in the modern, almost sterile confines of Nina’s home, the film utilizes this restricted space to explore rich existential themes while delivering an evocative story. The heart of the narrative lies in the unexpected encounter between Nina (Mimi Rogers,) an art dealer, and Fitch (Bryan Brown,) her “substitute” masseuse. Their interactions, deep with emotion and philosophical insights, make this film an engaging, narrative-driven piece.

Comedy and Horror Collide in Countryside Chaos

Wickedly Evil (Bad Things in the Middle of Nowhere)

In Garry Walsh's directorial debut, WICKEDLY EVIL, we're taken to the Irish countryside for an offbeat blend of horror and comedy. It’s a cinematic mix that entices with its intriguing premise and vibrant character dynamics, though it stumbles a bit in execution. The film ambitiously straddles the line between genres, delivering a few chuckles and chills.

Grief and Cannibalism Intertwine Uniquely

Feed Me

Adam Leader and Richard Oakes’ FEED ME is a divergence from their previous venture, HOSTS, showcasing a blend of dark humor and horror. The film's shift from supernatural themes to a gory, cannibalistic narrative marks it as a peculiar yet intriguing addition to indie horror. It introduces us to Jed, played by Christopher Mulvin, a man grappling with grief and drawn into a nightmarish situation with a cannibal, Lionel Flack, chillingly portrayed by Neal Ward. FEED ME impresses with its unconventional approach, marrying horror with comedy in an unsettling and enthralling way.

Crime and Comedy Collide in LA Tale

2 Days in the Valley

Come along and explore the bustling streets and hidden corners of Los Angeles; 2 DAYS IN THE VALLEY presents a narrative rich in drama and dark wit. John Herzfeld directs this compelling mosaic of interlinked stories with a vision, balancing the essence of crime thrillers with a touch of dark comedy. It's a cinematic excursion that offers more than surface-level entertainment, capturing the pulsating life of LA and its diverse inhabitants.

Southern Noir Dives Into Crime and Chaos

Mob Land

In Nicholas Maggio's MOB LAND, viewers are whisked away to a Southern town trapped in a whirlwind of crime and desperation. The film's central characters, Shelby Connors (Shiloh Fernandez) and his brother-in-law Trey (Kevin Dillon), become entangled in a heist that sends ripples through their lives. John Travolta's portrayal of Sheriff Bodie Davis, a man juggling his duty and a personal health battle, alongside Stephen Dorff's Clayton, a formidable mafia enforcer, adds depth and complexity to this tale.

Nell Teare Captivates in Triple-Threat Film Role

Bolivar

As the opening scene of BOLIVAR washes over the screen, you’re immediately pulled into a world where the personal story is palpable; you can feel the heart on the screen. Nell Teare is the architect of this foray into the human soul, not just through her role behind and in front of the camera but through a script that vibrates with the pulse of real-life heartache. While the story marches through its beats, the undercurrent of genuine emotion catches you off-guard in the best possible way.

The Haunting Echoes of Past Choices

The Veil

At the intersection of spectral hauntings and the quest for redemption, THE VEIL is Cameron Beyl's latest venture that invites audiences into the mind of a tormented former clergyman. This atmospheric journey is less about the jump scares and more about the eerie aftertaste it leaves as it examines the shadows of guilt that linger long after the credits roll.

Heartstrings Tugged in Musical Homage

The Only Girl in the Orchestra

Step into the hidden alcoves of classical music’s grand auditorium with THE ONLY GIRL IN THE ORCHESTRA, where the unsung melodies of dedication and influence are brought to the forefront. Molly O’Brien, wielding the camera with a conductor’s precision, invites us on an intimate exploration of her aunt Orin O’Brien's understated yet profound impact on the world of music and education. This behind-the-scenes narrative gently weaves through the fabric of Orin’s life without missing a beat, with a run time of just over half an hour.

Wuxia Satire Offers Unique Cinematic Twist

The Royal Tramp Collection (Royal Tramp & Royal Tramp II)

Upon entering the realm of the ROYAL TRAMP COLLECTION, I found myself transported to a world set against the rich vision of historical China. Here, a simple storyteller, portrayed with infectious energy by Stephen Chow, unwittingly becomes the linchpin in a saga of espionage that would give any action-adventure a run for its money. Yet, it is not just the escapades that capture your fancy but the clever way humor is interlaced with high stakes.

Indie Film's Hidden Chapter Exposed

Mancunian Man: The Legendary Life of Cliff Twemlow

MANCUNIAN MAN takes us on a winding path through the life of Cliff Twemlow, whose relentless pursuit of cinematic creation led him to craft a legacy from the shadows. In Jake West's documentary, the streets of Manchester are not just a backdrop but a character for the film, integral to the story of a man whose environmental roots fertilized his artistic ambitions.

A Story of Control and Psychological Entrapment

Screwdriver

As the opening scenes of SCREWDRIVER unfold, I’m swept into a seemingly tranquil existence, which soon reveals an unnerving subtext. Here, the narrative probes the human psyche, compelling without reliance on high-octane action. AnnaClare Hicks embodies Emily with such raw authenticity that you feel tethered to her spiraling sense of reality. The onset of her ordeal at the hands of what should be a sanctuary of old friendship plays out with the finesse of a seasoned storyteller at the helm.

Resilience Amidst War's Lingering Shadows

A Place in the Field

In embracing the American Southwest's grandeur, Nikki Mejia crafts a visual journey of healing and remembrance in A PLACE IN THE FIELD. This first-time feature-length director tells a tale of war's lingering shadows and a soldier's rugged path toward peace. The journey we embark on with Giovanni Scuderi, played by Don DiPetta, is one where we must traverse an emotional distance to reconcile with the past.

Dark Humor Meets Deep Emotion

Hayseed

HAYSEED welcomes you to a world shrouded in the enigma of a small Michigan town. Here, the line between secrets and truth is clouded in mystery and intrigue. The film introduces a plot with twists and turns and various characters ripe with complexity and intrigue. The movie starts with a whisper of mystery and builds to a symphony of suspense. I was expecting a very indie film experience, and while the film is a smaller production, it doesn’t show it.

Indie Tries to Bridge CGI and Reality

Love Virtually

In the indie film world, LOVE VIRTUALLY emerges as a quirky contender, blending the eccentricities of virtual romance with the warmth of human connection. We are whisked away into a universe where tech obsessions intertwine with the beating heart of love stories, delivering a cocktail that is as unique as it is thought-provoking.

Navigating Post-Apocalyptic Tokyo

Lion-Girl

Imagine tumbling into the colorful pages of a graphic novel, where fantasy and reality merge. That's the experience LION-GIRL delivers under the visionary hand of Go Nagai's imaginative prowess and Mitsutake Kurando's directorial finesse. Embarking on the LION-GIRL adventure without prior knowledge of Nagai's manga universe might feel like navigating a maze. However, the carefully woven narrative and the film’s vibrant palette transform what could be a complex web into an accessible and exhilarating cinematic escapade. Accessible, yes, but still absolutely bonkers.

Psychological Thriller Meets Social Satire

Share?

The opening scenes of SHARE? plunge the viewer into a bewildering digital rabbit hole. It's an unsettling yet fascinating foray into the world of psychological manipulation and societal commentary, crafted meticulously by director Ira Rosensweig and co-writer Benjamin Sutor. The narrative is a thought-provoking reflection of our digital fascinations, making SHARE? more than a mere cinematic experience—it's a jolting wake-up call.

Nostalgic Journey Through 60's Youth

American Graffiti - 50th Anniversary Edition 4K

Step back in time with AMERICAN GRAFFITI, where the vibrancy of the 60s is rekindled with such authenticity that it feels like a breeze from the past. A film about the 60s, made in the 70s, that still connects with the world we live in now. Under the combined visionary prowess of George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola, this cultural snapshot of an era swirls around a night of new beginnings and memories for its young characters, from the thunderous roar of hot rods to a rock 'n' roll soundtrack that hums with the heartbeat of a generation on the precipice of change.

Naughty List Goes Nuclear in New Film

Violent Night

Hold onto your reindeer. VIOLENT NIGHT shakes up the holiday film genre like a snow globe in the hands of a thrill-seeking elf. David Harbour, as Santa, gives us a character who's more at home on a battlefield than on a rooftop. The movie grabs the reins of the classic Christmas narrative and races it through an obstacle course of dark comedy and gripping action. It's a festive film that isn’t afraid of getting its boots dirty, and its Santa doesn’t mess around.

Holiday Heartwarmer Hits the Right Notes

A Home for the Holidays

Imagine a holiday scene from a snow globe: a sprawling home set against the breathtaking Rocky Mountains, a serene life that is all changed when a stranger's claim to this newfound paradise is brought to the fore. This is the world A HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS paints, a canvas of holiday cheer and budding romance that effortlessly draws you in. The film takes the traditional holiday film format and adds a fun twist that makes it more than just a cliched copy.

A Syndicate's Game of Duplicity

The Gamblers

As you wander through the cobblestoned lanes of 1970s Dubrovnik in THE GAMBLERS, you're not just witnessing a tale from yesteryears but embarking on a journey through a narrative given life by some lesser-known names but faces that you may recognize. What starts as a stroll rapidly escalates into a gripping exploration of this group's surprisingly powerful idea, proving that patience pays off.

A Gripping Tale of Youth, Luxury, and Loss

Jezabel

As we journey into the opulent yet turbulent world of JEZABEL, I was immediately engrossed by the magnetic allure of its setting in Caracas, a city pulsating with energy and fraught with political unrest. This is a portal into an odyssey where luxury and tragedy waltz together in a captivating tango. The narrative hooks you with its rich blend of indulgence, decadence, and heartache, painting a vivid portrait of a group of friends in a tangled web of mystery and moral decay.

Dallas: a City, a Tragedy, a Film

Down in Dallas Town: From JFK to K2

The opening of DOWN IN DALLAS TOWN follows a familiar path that we’ve seen repeatedly, covering the tragic events of November 22, 1963. However, that’s where the film begins to steer clear of the typical documentary blueprint; Alan Govenar directs a symphony of visuals and sounds that brings history to life. It's a gripping portrayal of how JFK's legacy still reverberates through the streets of modern-day Dallas and beyond. From the get-go, it's apparent that this narrative is deeply embedded with both heart and soul.

Quantum Physics Meets Self-Discovery

Ingress

After watching INGRESS, I was swept away into a realm oscillating between the intimately familiar and the expansively surreal. It’s a cinematic concoction that’s as deeply personal as it is universally resonant. Rachel Noll James, donning the hats of writer, director, and lead, infuses the narrative with a genuineness that’s as refreshing as rare in the indie film landscape. While there is no doubt that the film is an independent feature, it pushes the boundaries to a point where you will often forget that.

Dark Narrative Echoes Greek Tragedy

A Bullet For Sandoval (Los desesperados)

With A BULLET FOR SANDOVAL, one can't help but be enamored by its rich blend of classic storytelling elements entwined with a dark thematic experience. It's a deep dive into the turbulent human psyche, all set against the backdrop of a changing Hollywood landscape in the form of a Western. It's this unique charm and a touch of peculiarity that might reel you in for the journey set before us.

A Mosaic of Intrigue and International Politics

The Engineer

This film was released back in August and, on the international stage, was another of the list from the Emile Hirsch renaissance of his Nicolas Cage phase of releasing film after film. With the current news cycle focusing on the decades-old battle between Israel and Palestine, this film takes on an entirely new meaning. Let it be known that this is a review of the movie, not the accuracy of its content.

Veiled Narratives Unveiled

Yellow (رنگ زرد)

Step into the vibrant heart of YELLOW, a short film that packs a powerful punch without resorting to the use of typical cinematic extravaganzas. Director Elham Ehsas orchestrates a narrative so poignant and authentic that it whispers the depth of this heartfelt experience, allowing the audience to lean in and truly listen. From the opening scene to the final credits, this 12-minute film captivates not with high-octane action but with the quiet yet fierce battles waged under the chadaris against a backdrop that refuses to be silenced, even in the darkest times.

Daughter's Quest Unravels Dark Past

The Marsh King’s Daughter

Embark on a journey with THE MARSH KING'S DAUGHTER, where the mystery of Helena's life is unmasked, revealing a chilling legacy. Daisy Ridley embodies this complex character with nuance and depth, while Ben Mendelsohn's portrayal of her father adds an unsettling intensity to the narrative. This psychological thriller intertwines family drama with hints of mythology, crafting a viewing experience that is as profound as it is exhilarating.

A Deep Dive Into the Anti-Vaccination Crusade

Shot in the Arm

Come with me to examine vaccine skepticism with SHOT IN THE ARM, a documentary that does more than merely scratch the surface of this new wave of unfounded politicized fear. Directed by Scott Hamilton Kennedy, this is a deeper dive than just telling people they need to take vaccinations, and this explores why and how a movement has attempted to put fear into people. It's a look into the depths of societal division and political convolution. With an opening act that pulls no punches, this film is poised to stir the cauldron of public discourse.

Trailblazing Woman Behind the Camera

She, Who Dared

In the world of forgotten cinematic icons, SHE, WHO DARED shines a beacon on Lois Weber, a titan of the silent film era whose legacy was unjustly obscured over time. Through Director Gabrielle Rosson’s lens, this short film transcends a mere nod to the past; it's a spotlight on film history, placing Weber at its core.

Blurring Reality With Cinematic Terror

Squealer

Be aware of the serene facade of SQUEALER's setting; more lies beneath the surface. What unfolds is a tale that explores the darkest corners of the human psyche. Welcome to a cinematic experience that's as chilling from start to finish. SQUEALER paints a tale of a once-tranquil town now entangled in a web of terror and mystery. A cop and a perceptive social worker find themselves at the heart of a tangled plot, leading them to the unlikeliest place in a remote pig farm. They uncover a revelation that fractures the town's idyllic veneer, serving up a sinister story where the butcher's knife cuts more profoundly than one could ever imagine.

America's Precarious Paycheck-to-Paycheck Life

It’s Basic

Strap in for a cinematic exploration into the heart of America's economic storm with IT'S BASIC. This documentary sails into turbulent waters, presenting Universal Basic Income (UBI) as a potential lifesaver for those drowning in financial woes. At its core, IT'S BASIC illuminates the hope of economic rescue despite navigating some choppy narrative waves along the way.

The Unconventional Comedy That Delivers

Nobody Wants to Be Just Ordinary

Imagine strolling through Los Angeles at dusk when the city's glamour gives way to the raw ambition. It's here that NOBODY WANTS TO BE JUST ORDINARY, a daring comedy, unravels its narrative. This isn't the Hollywood fairy tale you might expect; it's an energetic ride through a landscape where dreams and reality collide, wrapped in the spirit of indie fervor.

Canadian Gothic Cinema Unfolds

Hands That Bind

In HANDS THAT BIND, the curtains of reality are drawn back to reveal a haunting, extraordinary world of 1980s Alberta. Director Kyle Armstrong invites us into a realm where every puff of tractor exhaust seems to echo with the whispers of unseen forces. This is a prairie drama where the mundane and the mysterious are entangled in an intriguing dance. Make no mistake; this is a slow-burn film, unlike any slow-burn I’ve seen before. I’m not sure why this decision was made, but it oddly works.

Latin Culture in the Spotlight

Blue Beetle

BLUE BEETLE sets the stage for an unforgettable journey through the lives of age-old legends mixed with modern dilemmas, all set against the vibrant backdrop of Palmera City and brought to life through a canon already established in the universe. When you first see this narrative, you'll feel it; it's a fresh perspective in the superhero world and a welcome one, though not without its bumps.

Buddy's Whimsical New York Quest

Elf

Will Ferrell has danced across and tackled many comedy types for years. However, in ELF, he’s neither following a well-trodden path nor leading us down a familiar one; he's forging an entirely new trail. ELF has (since its release, has been one of my favorite additions to my Christmas viewing list every year.)

Cruise Defies Age and Gravity

Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One

In Hollywood's action-packed universe, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – DEAD RECKONING PART ONE leaps to the top of the pile, blending high-tech tales and heart-stopping sequences. With Tom Cruise leading the charge, we're thrust into a whirlwind of suspense, challenges, and technological marvels. While it promises a feast for the senses, it also prods the brain with its twists and turns throughout.

A Deep Dive Into Healthcare's Dark Side

Pay or Die

PAY OR DIE takes us on a captivating journey deep into the maze of the American healthcare quagmire. With a blend of heartfelt stories and raw facts, directors Rachael Dyer and Scott Alexander Ruderman reveal the gritty reality many face while trying to survive and their needs for essential medications.

King Crimson's Living Legacy

In the Court of the Crimson King: King Crimson at 50

There have been many music documentaries over the years, but IN THE COURT OF THE CRIMSON KING: KING CRIMSON AT 50 emerges as a standout. It's more than a walk down memory lane; it's a heart-thumping deep dive into the intricate layers of King Crimson, revealing tales and tunes that resonate across generations. Beyond that, though, it’s even more; it’s an experience better left to the viewers to have firsthand.

Faith, Feminism, and Freedom

Irish Catholic

IRISH CATHOLIC, an intriguing and unexpected experience, stepped onto my viewing radar. It's a unique, heartfelt nod to the one and only Sinead O'Connor. From its intriguing storyline to its audacious creative choices, the film is guided by a powerhouse all-female team (writer, director, director of photography, and more.) IRISH CATHOLIC traverses whimsical charm and thought-provoking depths, making it an unapologetic pull for viewers.

Independent Charm Shines

Don’t Tell Larry

DON’T TELL LARRY whisks you into the whirlwind realm of corporate shenanigans. At the outset, you might be tricked into thinking this is just another comedic portrayal of office life. Oh, how wrong you'd be! What unfolds is a saga of ambition, deception, and mystery that will keep you glued to your screen. Before diving in, make sure you understand that this is an indie film through and through; an unpolished finish gives the film unmistakable charm.

A Father-Son Odyssey

Fioretta

Welcome to FIORETTA, a mesmerizing historical escapade that's not just a documentary—it's an experience! Director Matthew Mishory offers a dazzling blend of raw emotion, riveting narratives, and finesse. In the film, I witnessed an intimate portrayal of father and son Randy and Joey Schoenberg as they traced their ancestral roots. The blend of history and heartfelt connections makes for a riveting watch!

Haunting Horrors Meet Desert Drama!

Bloodthirst

Set against the sprawling landscapes of the Western U.S., BLOODTHIRST brings to the screen a world teetering on the edge, where the fight for survival means battling against the night's most notorious creatures. Michael Su's latest spectacle is like diving headfirst into a twilight zone of cowboys and fangs—exciting, erratic, and entertaining in its peculiar way.

Relationships Tested Beyond Limits

The Hive

A movie that combines the strains of faltering relationships with the unpredictable suspense of uninvited guests, Jared Allmond’s THE HIVE is the title to take that daring plunge, challenging storytelling norms. Albie and Penny, portrayed with rawness by Timothy Haug and Christie Griffin, hope for a peaceful evening to reconnect. Their idyllic dreams, however, are interrupted by unexpected visitors, turning their sanctuary into a suspense-filled scene straight out of your darkest nightmares.

An Unforgettable Journey Into Darkness

When Evil Lurks (Cuando acecha la maldad)

If you thought you knew what spine-chilling was, think again. Director/Writer Demián Rugna, previously acclaimed for TERRIFIED, returns, and boy, does he leave an impression! Presenting WHEN EVIL LURKS—a story that peels away from standard ghostly tales to lay bare the authentic terrors of a community facing impending calamity. This film seized my attention from the outset, creating ripples of intrigue and just the right amount of discomfort.

Spiritual Journey Meets Self-Discovery

Thunder (Foudre)

reathtaking landscapes conceal strict rules and an enigmatic existence that will forever alter our protagonist's path. THUNDER takes us to the scenic yet orthodox settings of early 20th-century Switzerland, presenting more than a film—a soul-stirring saga about confronting and breaking free from deep-rooted societal norms. This motion picture grips your senses immediately, weaving a complex tale of faith, insurrection, and the pursuit of inner authenticity in a realm of rigid.

A Queen's Fiery Spirit Ignites the Screen

Boudica: Queen of War

Prepare to be transported, not just through time but into the soul of a queen whose name became synonymous with defiance. BOUDICA: QUEEN OF WAR is Director Jesse V. Johnson's interpretation of history, mingling raw warfare with supernatural whispers around every corner. It is anchored by a performance from Olga Kurylenko that can only be described as power and courage personified. Without giving too much away, know this: Your heart will race, and you'll find yourself rallying behind the battle cries in this vibrant historical reimagining.

Feminist Twist in Erotic Tale

Emanuelle's Revenge (Do Ut Des)

In EMANUELLE'S REVENGE, audiences expect a sizzling narrative rich with dark desires and unbridled passion. This latest rendition, although intriguing, pulls its punches at times and only partially commits to the promises of its lineage. It's a cinematic seduction with just enough restraint to leave you wondering what the evening could have held if it had dared to unleash its entire arsenal.

Poet's Journey: Rebellion and Legacy

The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg

Step into the experience that is THE LIFE AND TIMES OF ALLEN GINSBERG, a documentary that frames the storied existence of this literary titan within the counterculture maelstrom of his time. While the film serves a banquet of rich historical insights and poetic enthusiasm, it also prompts a desire for a more significant exploration. This isn’t a knock on the film, just a statement that this life couldn’t be fully explored in the approximate hour and a half runtime.

Intense Psychological Battle Unleashed

Two Small Bodies

Dive deep into the human psyche with TWO SMALL BODIES, a film that transforms a criminal investigation into an exploration of raw human emotion and complex interpersonal dynamics. This narrative sprints through the dark alleys of human behavior, unearthing more than just the facts but the essence of its characters. This puzzle is intensified by powerhouse performances and a director whose evolution is visible within the film. The bravery of TWO SMALL BODIES in dissecting intricate themes serves as a societal reflector, ensuring you won't just watch but be thoroughly engrossed.

Psychological Horrors Explored`

Deadgirl (15th Anniversary Edition)

Welcome to a world where moral compasses go haywire, and the human psyche gets a startling portrayal, all within the eerie confines of an abandoned asylum. DEADGIRL takes us on a ride that's anything but typical, stirring the horror pot with generous servings of societal critique and unnerving exploration of youthful transgressions. This maze of ethical quandaries and raw human desires promises to disturb and intrigue.

Resilience Through Laughter

Care & Repair

Prepare to drop into the world of CARE & REPAIR, an unexpected journey into the lives of two brothers and those around them. They navigate the plumbing of emotional depths while handling literal leaks. It's not merely about the pipes they're fixing but the familial knots they're inadvertently untangling. With its comedic flavor, the film takes a deep dive into the fragility and hilarity of life's unpredictable moments, making it a captivating watch for all.

Chaos Unleashed in Indie Horror

Lycan Colony

Travel with me, if you will, to LYCAN COLONY. The journey feels like unlocking Pandora's box of indie filmmaking, where every norm is broken and shattered. It's not merely a detour from the conventional B-movie path; it's a headlong plunge into a realm where the bewildering and the captivating bizarrely coalesce. The film is one of those that may be so bad that it's good. However, that is primarily due to a RiffTrax being featured as an extra on the disc that amplifies the absurdity, embracing the film's offbeat allure and immortalizing its place in the hearts of those who cherish cinema's more eccentric takes. (that alone is probably worth the extra half-star.)

Raw Authenticity Elevates Genre

Chopper

Prepare to be whisked into the unnervingly captivating realm of CHOPPER, a film that stitches dark humor, brutality, and thought-provoking storytelling into a fascinating cinematic experience. From the get-go, it grips the audience with the promise of exploring the infamous, a journey as unconventional as it is unpredictable. Eric Bana’s transformative performance brilliantly oscillates between sheer terror and odd charm, vividly painting the Australian criminal as you’ve never expected.

Societal Reflections in Drama

Witness

Mix a dash of serenity with high-stakes drama, and you’ll end up with WITNESS. This compelling narrative defies the norm, blending electrifying performances with heart-stirring direction. It's a cinematic experience that doesn't just entertain but enlightens, serving a feast for the eyes and mind alike- making it a narrative for the ages.

Beware: Demons Play Here!

Vampires And Other Stereotypes

When dusk descends on New York, VAMPIRES AND OTHER STEREOTYPES emerge, blurring lines between the paranormal in a thrilling clash against the encroaching darkness. This film is a plucky underdog in the indie horror landscape, gripping the audience with its unrefined magnetism and flair, even though it occasionally trips in the murky shadows it casts. Don’t get me wrong, this is a shot on video 90s horror film, so you need to set your expectations appropriately. However, where the film may lack some polish, it makes up for it by leaning into what it is.

Directorial Debut Dances Between Genres

The Iron Fisted Monk (San De huo shang yu Chong Mi Liu)

THE IRON FISTED MONK, Sammo Hung's directorial debut, is a spectacle draped in choreographic elegance. This film features electrifying martial arts and some unexpected humor, like trying to mix oil and water. The multifaceted experience teeters between eliciting laughter and provoking thought. It was an intriguing experience and one I don’t think I was prepared for.

Unconventional Teen Drama Unveiled

Last Summer of Nathan Lee

LAST SUMMER OF NATHAN LEE catapults viewers into a whirlwind of emotions, brilliantly juxtaposing the exuberance of youth against the sad reality of mortality. Director/Co-Writer Quentin Lee weaves this poignant tale with a skill that avoids cliches, demanding audience engagement from the get-go and promising a tragically beautiful and resonantly hopeful journey. With a few minor hurdles in the road, the film still shines triumphantly as a story of one's worth.

Survival Instincts Take Dark Turn

Vile

Taylor Sheridan's VILE catapults audiences into an abyss of moral dilemmas, redefining discomfort in a narrative that exposes the stark rawness of human survival instincts. It's a ride that begins as unsettling and only tightens its grip as the plot unravels. Imagine a tranquil getaway that morphs into a grotesque fight for freedom where pain, in its most primitive form, becomes a monstrous form of currency.

Knights Templar's Nightmarish Retur

Tombs Of The Blind Dead

Embark on a journey into the depths of TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD, where echoes of a dark past merge with unspeakable horrors in an unsettling exploration of terror. This isn't your standard modern-day horror flick; it's an artful reflection of Francoist Spain, melding historical authenticity with heart-pounding terror. Prepare for an experience that doesn't just scare but haunts, disturbs and lingers long after the end. It is very reminiscent of the slow-burn and graphic style of the Giallo genre.

Matchmaker's Maze: Perilous Paths of Affection

Soul Mates

Dive into SOUL MATES, a concoction where love collides with horror, crafting a genre-blending spectacle that keeps your heart racing. This narrative takes a well-known formula and spins it on its head. Part SAW, part ESCAPE ROOM, and part 90s dating scene, the film delivers an experience that will keep you on your toes, trying to figure out all the puzzles throughout. However, it doesn’t escape certain tropes, leading to a few moments of predictability and a finish that might feel too tidy for some.

Comedy Masks Deep Truths

Sick Girl

Welcome to SICK GIRL's emotionally tumultuous yet funny world, where viewers are treated to a comedy with unexpected depths. This narrative connects humor and the poignant reality of human diseases and weakness. SICK GIRL is a relatable tale that makes you laugh and urges you to ponder life's intricacies, a story that feels like a confidant, revealing the lengths we go to in preserving those connections that make us who we are.

Horror Meets Dark Humor

KillHer

In KILLHER, tranquility takes a terrifying turn, making a serene wilderness the backdrop for a story that plunges from pre-wedding celebrations to a fight for survival. This is no run-of-the-mill scare fest. Instead, KILLHER weaves human vulnerability into its horror, crafting an indie film that grips your senses with fear and its raw exploration of human bonds strained to break point in the face of the inexplicable.

War's Raw Face: Adrenaline-Fueled Experience

Beach of the War Gods (Zhan shen tan)

Immerse yourself in a realm where the sands of time blend with the bold strokes of fantasy in BEACH OF THE WAR GODS. This epic doesn't just showcase Jimmy Wang Yu's artistic arsenal but throws you, the viewer, into a whirlpool of heroic fervor, human resilience, and artful storytelling. Expect a spectacle where swords clashing creates rhythmic echoes, merging with a narrative as vast and relentless as the sea itself!

Eerie Elegance in Horror

Messiah of Evil

Welcome to a world where the calm masks lurking chaos, and quaint townscapes hide unspeakable horrors. MESSIAH OF EVIL, available in both Limited Edition and Special Edition releases from Radiance, offers a unique concoction of horror and art before the “artsy horror” genre thrust itself into the mainstream. The film pulls audiences into a mesmerizing nightmare that blurs the line between the serene and the sinister. This isn't your standard scream-fest; it's a cerebral journey through a landscape painted with broad strokes of dread and detailed lines of intrigue, proving itself a peculiar gem in the horror genre.

Tumultuous Journeys and Emotional Expeditions

Baby, Don’t Cry

Where the turmoil of youthful rebellion collides with the whisper of dreams, Jesse Dvorak's BABY, DON’T CRY presents a visually stunning, emotionally charged narrative where echoes of intimate struggles, uncomfortable moments that make you think, and the tender threads of blossoming love weave a moving cinematic experience. Here’s a voyage where we delve into a turbulent ocean, exploring the passionate undercurrents, navigating the cultural, generational, and intimate conflicts, and the calm of heartfelt connections.

Dark Shadows Reveal Society's Unsettling Realities

Night of the Hunted

In the chilling ambiance of NIGHT OF THE HUNTED, the clash between life-threatening fear and introspective exploration of morality pulsates through the screen, a disturbing reflection of an unexpected dangerous night and our perplexing societal struggles. We are looking into the shadowed yet revealing reality, where the typical is twisted into an aggressive stage, questioning not just our ethical stances but intertwining them with the very real, very unnerving, survivalist instinct, where every decision, every subtle glance, is a potential life-or-death choice.

Traversing the Depths of Human Greed

Butcher's Crossing

Let’s journey through the shadowy realms of BUTCHER'S CROSSING, a captivating experience where humanity and raw nature clash in moral ambiguity and savagery. Guided by the subtle yet deliberate hand of Director Gabe Polsky, we traverse a land where the specters of greed, aspiration, and moral corruption mix with the relentless beauty of the American wilderness. While filled with echoes of ancient times, our journey intertwines tales of adventure, transformation, and soulful demise, all under the looming shadow of environmental obliteration, evoking a harmonious yet heart-wrenching song of an era lost to the abyss of time.

Toxie’s Captivating, Chaotic World Explored

The Toxic Avenger Collection (8-Disc Tox Set) [4K Ultra HD + Special Edition Blu-ray]

Okay, so where to start? This was my first full watch through the Toxic film universe (Uncle Lloyd, we need the animated series on Blu-ray or 4k!) The entire series is beautifully restored from the original camera negatives, and they look spectacular on the included Blu-ray and the 4K discs. One of the most shocking aspects for me was how amazing the effects were; for a low-budget series, the practical effects were remarkable. This series is a unique creature that stands on its own as an unforgettable experience. So, this series was a product of its time. Many things wouldn’t be acceptable today, which I feel is vital to remember while watching these films. Just as with any film, it’s important to remember when these were made.

Hauntingly Humorous Animated Adventure

The Canterville Ghost

In the world where the spectral and the touches of humor collide, THE CANTERVILLE GHOST emerges, boasting a heartwarming and slightly chaotic dance through animated cinema. Exploring the enchanting corridors of Canterville Chase, we're ushered into an exploration of a tale that’s been told for centuries yet feels freshly invigorating in this animated revival. This lively adventure unwraps a story of haunting friendship, love, and a charmingly peculiar American family – all painted across a canvas where the joyous and the supernatural converse in captivating synchrony.

70s Horror's Uncanny Charm Unleashed

Meatcleaver Massacre

A concoction of horror, revenge, and a dash of unintentional comedy is crafted into a narrative that insists upon its peculiar charm, and the movie serves us a tasty dish of 1970s horror – with all its intricate layers of genuine chills and unintentional chuckles. My initial dive into this abyss of horror was like unearthing a strange artifact from cinematic yesteryears, where the bizarrely compelling and morbidly curious intertwine.

Whimsy Meets Action in Espionage

From Beijing With Love (Gwok chaan Ling Ling Chat)

Explore a world where espionage intertwines with humor through the narrative of FROM BEIJING WITH LOVE. Stephen Chow delivers a story that is both a spectacle and a thoughtfully curated comedy, navigating through international subterfuge with a blend of exaggerated antics and nuanced emotions, offering audiences not just a spy parody but a standalone comedic escapade. It is engaging yet effortless, so it nestles itself into a distinctive genre category, introducing an unconventional hero.

A Lively Spin on a Classic Tale

Peter & the Wolf

PETER & THE WOLF transports audiences into a world with a vibrant splash of tradition and contemporary artistry through its fantastical narrative, unfolding in an animated realm where emotional depth and whimsical adventures harmoniously coexist. As we dive into this narrative guided by the voice of Gavin Friday, viewers are cradled between the melancholic waves of loss and the spirits of unbridled adventure embodied within a young protagonist named Peter.

Symbiotic Sinister Sensations

The Fifth Thoracic Vertebra

Syeyoung Park catapults us into a world both intriguingly horrifying and thoughtfully empathetic with THE FIFTH THORACIC VERTEBRA, offering a narrative that is as sinister as it is unexpectedly tender. In this hybrid of somber reflections and insidious otherworldly connections, the viewers find themselves entwined in a story that sticks to the consciousness despite shuffling effortlessly between genres, provoking contemplation long after the end credits roll.